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Government tells me I’m ‘Ready for Brexit’, but I suspect this might not be quite right

The official ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ website might tell me I’m already prepared for our impending exit from the EU, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion this might not be quite right, says Cambridgeshire Fens farmer Tom Clarke.

Get Ready.

 

‘Get Ready’ flashes the notice board. ‘Get Ready’ shouts the radio, the TV advert, the roadside billboard.

 

‘Are you Ready for Brexit, Sir?’ chirrups the semi-uniformed lady behind a lectern at the motorway service station.

 

You can check if you are Ready for Brexit, or not, by going to a pretty sparse section of the gov.uk website.

 

I’m a farmer, and at the front end of many of the changes likely to happen, so I thought I’d better check to see if I am ready or not.

 

Pleasure

 

To manage your expectations, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, you get to answer a few dozen questions about your business and the website generates a list of recommended actions and areas for further research.

 

Imagine my joy, when having confirmed I don’t directly import or export, I don’t employ EU nationals or use radioactive isotopes in my work, that it turns out, in actual fact, I don’t have to do anything!

 

Brexit will happen, and I will barely notice. According to the ‘Get Ready For Brexit’ website, I’m completely ready. Born ready. Turns out I’ve been unwittingly practising Brexit for years.

 

I’m as ready as a lark who got up extra early that day and caught all the worms partying.

 

Which is a massive relief.

 

Stupid

 

Imagine how stupid I felt. I’d been unnecessarily concerned that the 53 per cent export tariff on wheat was going to reduce my income.

 

I’d been a fool to think the just-in-time supply chain which ensures parts for my John Deeres arrive from Germany the very next day might be affected.

 

Why did I imagine the end of the Basic Payment Scheme would even touch the sides of my cashflow, or that fertiliser, seed and agrichemicals we don’t make here might be a little hard to come by.

 

Despite this good news, I have a niggling suspicion that farming is in for some pretty fundamental changes over the next few months and years.

 

Not just Brexit, but changes in climate, in crops, technology, pests and diseases.

 

Frank

 

And, to be frank – I don’t think we are ready.

 

So it was a real tonic to go and see Doug Avery on his Resilient Farmer tour this week. If you haven’t heard of Doug, then look him up.

 

He’s a farmer from New Zealand who hit rock bottom, and the bottle, when a 17-year drought broke his farm and his spirit.

 

He has a powerful story, familiar to many farming families, of powerlessness over their own lives.

 

Doom

 

Of an impending sense of doom hanging over their livelihoods, and of being trapped by their own red lines.

 

Doug was saved by one conversation, by someone who had an idea about doing something differently.

 

It changed his whole mindset.

 

He started fixing the things he could influence, he became open to new ideas, and stopped trying to keep things the way they always had been.

 

It saved his life, and his farm.

 

Earthquake

 

Some years later, the same farm was literally ripped apart by a massive earthquake, but with his new outlook – his resilient, open, accepting, positive and flexible mindset – he saw opportunities and set about building something new.

 

Brexit may not threaten an actual earthquake, but the changes to UK farming will go deep, and in 5 years, things may well be unrecognisable.

 

UK farmers would do well to draw lessons from Doug’s pivot from despair to hope. It’s real, and it can work for you and your farm too.

 

To my mind, it is the best possible and most useful way we can all Get Ready for Brexit.

 

Tom can be found tweeting at @Tom_Clarke


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